The starting goaltender for the Columbus Blue Jackets is not happy. In fact, Elvis Merzlikins himself told the media he has asked for a trade (this was later disputed by team president John Davidson). Now we're left wondering: how do the Blue Jackets recover?
This entire situation could conceivably resolve itself if the team had another goaltender ready to go. The whole thing started because they thought they might have his replacement in house. They started feeding starts to Daniil Tarasov, but he has left us wanting more so far.
The team gave Tarasov more than a fair shake at the starting role; especially for a guy who has missed so much hockey in his young career. The problem is, this is exactly what upset Merzlikins in the first place. It seems there wasn't much thought or communication put forth from the team to Elvis through this process. That's unacceptable, and quite frankly, embarrassing for management.
It's that management that is left holding the empty bag here, in my opinion. They have to fix it. Head coach Pascal Vincent even passed the buck in an interview by saying "that's above my pay grade" when asked about the goaltending situation. Talk about disfunction. Yikes.
Unfortunately, the already strained relationship between Elvis and the Jackets may have soured beyond repair by this whole fiasco.
One thing we all know about Elvis Merzlikins: he is an emotional guy. He wears it right out on his sleeve, for the whole world to see. You can see when he's calm. You know when he's upset. He's his own worst critic, almost to a fault. But the Jackets knew this when they drafted and signed him - and it was this very same management team that did so.
I'm not sure what they were thinking when they started using him as their third goaltender for a two-week stretch of games. He wasn't playing poorly at all. Maybe they were showcasing Tarasov for a trade? Maybe they thought he needed a reset after the whole Washington Capitals/Tom Wilson disaster? Either way, how can you sit your #1 goaltender in a press box for that long without an explanation?
In my opinion, this was horribly mishandled and has to go one of two ways. Either the team has to trade Elvis Merzlikins away and allow him a fresh start - or management has to eat crow and try to mend the fence. It just may be too late for the latter to occur.
One thing that is certain: this team can ill afford to have the distraction of a disgruntled starting goaltender. Something has to change.